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i don't know if it is politically viable. [applause] . . perfect. >> host: steven johnson come in your newest book, in a network age, use those term pre-progressive. what is that? >> guest: it is my attempt to come up with a term for this new
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political philosophy that i see emerging all around me. the book is really people who are trying to change the world in trying to ban progress, but he don't completely fit the existing models that we have between the left in the right or democrats and republicans. they believe in many ways that the way the internet was built, the way the web was built, the way things that wikipedia were built, using these collaborative. the works, where people come together from different points of view and openly collaborating, building ideas, that that mechanism is a tremendous engine for progress and growth. but it doesn't necessarily involve a government and doesn't necessarily involve capitalism or big corporation. so when you believe in a system come you don't necessarily believe in the traditional anchors that the left are
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traditional anchors at the right. so i felt that it is time that we had a category to describe these people come as a pure progressives is what i came up with. >> host: post central authority, post decentralized authority? >> guest: yes, the best example is the way the internet was built and the way that the web was built. the internet was partially a result of visionary government unnamed, which we've heard a lot about in the early days there is some important funding for the government. for the most part from the internet was built by louis collaborative networks come with that in leaders, without any bureaucrat that people who aren't actually trying to patent their inventions, want working for private corporation a more freely building on each other's ideas that were fighting those ideas sharing them. now, this is one of things where if we had this conversation 40 years ago, you said that the lovely utopian idea and i'm sure
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that will work well in your commies to mourn for the california when you are making baskets.
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all of these agents in the marketplace will end up coming up with new solutions, problems, meeting people's needs and so on. markets are kind of a peer network in that sense. the pure progresses differedlibs from traditional libertarians and that we don't think that market solves every problem in t society, and the many facets of they areperience that not necessarily successful assault by markets, and markets createtn their own problems. b brown's troubles and things like that. in the internet talk for buildnce, a lot of companies that were trying to build awoulf global network that would unitee computers all round the world, and they all failed compared ton this open source pier produce solutioninternet itself and theb and now wikipedia and many other things. there are places where you can use decentralized structure without involving traditional market relations,
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and that is what pier progressives are trying to do. >> host: what is the chicken gun? >> guest: okay, so the book starts with this kind of opening preface about progress, society and inability to, understand, you know, extent to which progress is happening all around us and misinterpret it, misinterpret where that progress comes from. the example. astonishingly safe to fly in a commercial airplane now. just this extraordinary thing. we don't hear that much about it, because there is kind of bias in the media and bias really in our own minds, against, stories of steady incremental progress where something in society gets better, 1% or 2% a year which over time stacks up to the amazing kind of break
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throughs, but, the headline of, this thing is 1% better than it was last year, is most boring news item in the world so people don't write about this, same with airplane crashes, when the plain goes down, there is nothing to go down so it doesn't report. so in the book i talk about it has gotten so safe to fly in a commercial airplane you're more likely to be elected president of the united states than you are to die in a commercial airplane crash. the example i give kind of the set piece in the book is story of the miracle on the hudson. reminding my way to the, so they have right context. when the us air flight landed in the hudson and everyone survived i thought it was very telling how the media chose to cover this event. there are really two different ways they covered it. first was superhero pilot, captain sully who indeed was an amazing pilot and amazing
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job. there was this kind of language of the miracle on the hudson. almost like supernatural event that happened. when people didn't focus on nearly enough was the plane, the plane had, performed admirably during this, during this event and, it did so on a couple of levels. one when the geese collided with the jet engines they didn't explode, they didn't shatter, they didn't send of shard. is of titanium in the fuselage causing the plain to break down. that is because every single jet engine, every single model of a jet engine on aircraft is tested with a chicken gun. they fire frozen chicken carcasses to a spinning jet engine to make sure this thing can handle it without exploding and shattering. that is your taxpayer dollars at work, right? this is government initiative here, and everyone on that plane was
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very glad that those chickens had been flown to test to make sure the engines could survive. but the other thing going on in that plane the engine survived and kept enough power to power the electronic system. and, that enabled, what we call the fly by wire system of the airbus 320 to give sullenberger all the assistance landing the plane properly which was the key to his success and the fly by wire system was originally developed by nasa. it was refined over the years. airbus kind of mod deled it in the 320, it was a huge part of success of that landing. because there wasn't a single hero to point to, we didn't, you can't put 1,000 engears own the cover of "time" magazine, right? so you put one person on the cover of "time" magazine. so often it is that tinkering and improving and modifying with thousands of minds working on a problem, how do you make an airplane
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safe really responsible for the progress we have in our society. one of the things i've tried to do in a way i try to do with a lot of my books is to tell story of group collaboration where people come together from different backgrounds and work to make the world a better place. >> host: you write, i suspect in the long run the media bias against stories of incremental progress may be more damaging than any bias the media display toward the political left and right. >> guest: around that point in the book i have a kind of a social studies quiz of other, kind of key indices of social health over the last 20 ore 30 years. and question to the reader. how we're faring as a society in the united states on everything from violent crime to divorce rates, to automobile fatalities, to air pollution and so on. it is 10 or 15 of these things.
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every single one them over the last 20 years there has been dramatic positive change, many case, 20, 30, 40% over that period. we just don't hear about that side of our society very often because, for whatever reason it is just not newsworthy. in fact you're much more likely to get attention by telling a story of slow, and steady decline than you are a slow and steady progress. it may be in fact that there's a bias in our own minds which the news media just kind of reflecting, because one of the things i came across today in this book, when i was researching this really shocked me with crime, the story of crime in the united states over the last 20 years may be the most extraordinary sort of social development in that period, is incredibly optimistic story. it is amazing how safe. new york has about 1/10 the number of murders it had at
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its peak in 1990. this is generally a national trend. we've seen incredible improvement really in all sorts of crime around the country. that actually is something the media has reported a little bit. it was within malcolm godwell's book, the tippingpoint. you see stories about the new york success story and l.a. success story. for the last five years gallup is asking americans is crime getting better or worse, for the last five years despite that coverage and despite the incredibly positive news, more americans think crime is getting worse year after year, even though that is empirically not true. people assume things have gotten worse even when evidence staring them straight in the face. >> host: you alluded to this, steven johnson, a little earlier but you have the running theme in almost all of your books. this points it out. this is from future perfect. most new movements start this way. hundreds of thousands of
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individual groups working in different fields and different locations start thinking about change using a common language without necessarily recognizing those shared values. you just start following your own vector, propelled along by the people in your immediate vicinity and then one day you look up and realize all those individual trajectories have turned into a wave. a dense, network of human intelligence, is what you call it. >> guest: you know, i feel that it is a theme of all the books but, with future perfect, it is the most pronounced because the fun thing about future perfect it is a book about something that hasn't fully happened yet. it is a book a emerging movement i'm seeing around me, doesn't really have a name, trying to figure a way to kind of describe it. but you do hit that point as an observer of society where you can look around and start to say, hey, i'm seeing all these interesting people, working on projects in the case of future per --
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perfect people working in cities and things like patent reform and new ways to fund prescription drugs. new ways to collaborate on the internet and fund the arts which is quick starter, i read about. a lot of different fields and made up of different stories about different fields, but it is still very early in the game with all these developments. and so, you know, future per fwek is designed kind of a short book, i wrote it, not to be fully comprehensive, in a way amplify those voices to celebrate what they were doing and inspire other people to come along and build on the new tradition. >> host: from your book, where good ideas come from, natural history of innovation, published in 2010, the history of being spectacularly right has a shadow history lurking behind it. a much longer history of being spectacularly wrong again and again and not just
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wrong but messy. error often creates a path that leads you to keep error often creates a path that leads you out of your comfortable assumptions. being right keeps you in place. being wrong forces to you explore. >> guest: you know, there is an interesting study a number of years ago about scientific papers by scientists who had made significant break throughs at some point in their career. and, what they're kind of publishing pattern was over the course of their career. they compare that to scientists to ended up not having real break throughs but published a lot, but didn't change, didn't have a truly disruptive idea and what they found was that by looking at it you can judge this looking at citations with newspaper, how many times each newspaper was cited by other papers, things like that. you do the big statistical
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analyses because all the stuff is online now and kind of archived and what they found was innovators, the ones who had really, you know, profound new ideas on science, had this interesting pattern where they, actually had a lot more kind of failed papers. and they published, they had far more volume to their work, and a huge number of those papers never went anywhere. it was every now and then, there would be one that would be incredible breakout hit and would change science forever, then most of the time they were starting out hitting like baseball a short little ground out whereas the none in -- noninnovative thinkers, who hadn't had disruptive idea, they were just hitting kind of singles and were much more consistent, had higher batting average but weren't swinging for the fences. so the argument is that to
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really be kind of successful in a new way and open up a new door or possibility in your field or science or some other field you have to have tolerance for failure and error. that is one of the things we see in silicon valley. is that that is if you're an entrepreneur in silicon valley and you haven't had at least one failed startup people look at you strangely. you're supposed to try and miss that means you're taking risks. investment capital model is found on the idea that 90% will be failures. it is 10% will be huge failures. it is one of the thing that governments have to be at. i talk a little bit about it in future perfect. you have to have a sense of experimentation and when you experiment, you get things wrong.
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and you go backwards or end up going down kind of, kind of false leads. and so you have to build up that kind of acceptance of failure as part of the process. >> host: in where good ideas come from, the natural history of innovation you have seven ways of innovating very quickly. you call them, adjacent possible, liquid networks, the slow hunch, serendipity, error, accept taigs and platforms. if we look at last two. a what is except taitiony. >> guest: thanks for not making me remember all of them. i think i would have passed that test. it is a very profound concept with a very awkward word. it is not my word. a word coined by the late brilliant evolutionary theorist. steven gould many years ago. and, gould and verba were
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talking about in the context of evolution but i think a word brilliantly applicable to innovation in technology and science and many other fields. the idea is this. in evolution there are many cases where a feature or a trait that evolved for one particular purpose turns out surprisingly kind of serendipitily when the organism in the environment changes. an example of this is feathers. we think feathers evolved to keep their owners warm basically. over time some creatures evolved feathers decided to adopt crazy new lifestyle of flying and ones had new feathers were better at it than ones that didn't have feathers. at one point evolution starts to skult the feathers to make them aerodynamic.
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so they're still just keeping them warm. flying birds have slightly asymmetrical feathers which gives them better aerodynamics essentially. you can see the shaping of after the change. the idea in accepttationy trait designed for one thing gets designed for something else. in the technology in it history of creative arts, in any field where people try to feel inventive and imaginative, that practice of taking an idea from one place and moving it over and kind of applying it in a new context is incredibly powerful. there's a great story actually not in where good ideas come from that kind of came to me after words, from apple, the most inno site tiff company in the world right now. when apple was trying to figure out what to do with its stores in the early days when they were starting to plan their retail stores,
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they, this was a very controversial thing, this is the hilarious, people look back, apple will not be able to do retail. this will be a total disaster. apple being apple didn't want to just kind of study its direct competitors. all right? normal way you do it i will open up a consumer electronics store and study other consumer electronics stores out there. so i will look at radioshack and best buy or whatever. apple didn't want to do that. they wanted to reinvent when it meant to be a consumer electronics store. what is a space where consumers just feel like they're having an amazing experience where they just love it? and so they went and studied five-star hotels, four seasons and ritz-carlton. they made their employees go through the training program at ritz-carlton. what they came out with was, what do people love about a five-star hotel. they love the concierge. they love going to the concierge whatever the issue
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is the concierge will figure it out. i want to take a hot-air ballon over the city. right i can make that happen. here is the what would a high-end hotel concierge be in the consumer electronics store? genius bar. hotel concierge xap over and put. apple are the most profitable retile environments by square foot on the planet. it is that kind, the cliche is thinking outside of the box. i don't want to say that. it is not just outside the box. go to some other field, go to some other field and discipline and see how you can trigger a new association in your head that makes you approach the problem you're working on in a new way. >> host: platforms. >> guest: one great thing, this is a kind of perfect connector to future perfect. this is the way in which the books are deeply connected to each other.
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one thing that we have seen with technology platforms, the internet, the web, things like facebook and twitter, they have this extraordinary ability when they're done right to allow for all sorts of inno vigs on top of that platform that the creators never dreamed of. so you create your platform. you say i will set up a social networking service and it will behave in this way. then you open it up to other people who can come and build on top of that platform. when they end up doing is, if you set up the system right, turning your tool which you thought would be used in this way, they discover all these other uses for it that were not part of your gameplan. and, that's the, that's one of these ways in which a platform that nobody owns like internet or web which is collectively owned by all of us. cannon the less be a great driver of private sector innovation because the platform is open. any company can come along
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and build something on it and improvise. there is couple really good examples of this. one of my favorites is way in which twitter was used by protest movements, by occupy wall street and arab spring and things like that. on pie wall street began as a hash tag on twitter. the hashtag is little hash symbol and whatever it is, super bowl or occupy wall street or presidential debates so everybody can follow that particular hashtag and see what's going on. occupy wall street was nothing but a hashtag for three or four months. started as a hashtag and only later people said, hey, we should occupy wall street. hashtag was first thing that was successful and people decided to go down in manhattan and camp out on the square. what i love about this, if you go back in time to talk the people investing twitter, evan williams and jack
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dorsey, and say to them in the future your creation, your platform that you're building will be used to organize protests all around the world by hash tags, they would have said, what is a hashtag? because hashtags were actually not part of their platform. it was something that users started to add. they didn't have any vision of political protests with twitter of course but they didn't even have the vision of hashtags. that came from people using twitter in that way. when we create platforms that allow this kind of creativity from ordinary people, suddenly you see this great, kind of rich ecosystem of discovery and invention that happens. and think that's, that is one of the things i'm very optimistic about in terms of future perfect which the government can create platforms like this and encourage ordinary people to come and help. this is really true in terms of local communities, where local governments sets up a platform that anybody can report a pothole, report a
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need they have in their neighborhood or report a problem or opportunity they see. because technology allows so much more of these kind of easy ways to get information back to the city, the city can be much more adaptive and resilient and innovative in the way it solves problems. instead of bureaucrat nightmare that some governments are, you can actually have a government platform that is open and inventive and creative. this is. >> host: this is booktv's "in depth" on first sunday of every month. we invite an author to talk about his or her body of work. this month we're pleased to have with us, best-selling author, steven johnson. here is list of his books beginning in 1999 with a book called, interface culture. emergence came out in 2002. mind wide open, 2005. everything bad is good for you. came out in 2005 as well. the ghost map, 2006. the invention of air, 2008.
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where good ideas come from. 2010. and his most recent is called, future perfect, the case for progress in a networked age. he is our guest for the next three hours. if you would like to dial in and talk with mr. johnson, 202 is area code. 585-3880. eastern and central, 585-3881. west, mountain and specific time zones. 2 2 is area code. contact mr. johnson electronically as well. is e-mail address. wit -- twitter handle is@booktv. we'll take the calls in just a minute. mr. johnson, you mentioned twitter, am i right you were the first person on twitter to have over a million followers? >> oh i don't know if that is exactly true. i have a lot of followers on twitter. >> host: you were one of original users. >> guest: right. what happened was, i, early
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on i decided when facebook and twitter were kind of starting i decided i could only have one social network in my life. so i decided to invest in twitter and throw my eggs into the twitter basket. so i think i was one of the first authors who was really using twitter. i think actually for the invention of air tour, i. it is wonderful thing as author because there are all these things when you have a book out don't really warrant on a a blog post but it's really helpful to say, hey, i'm reading tonight. here is review of my book. something, an article i just wrote. i was really using it a lot and getting a lot out of it. at that point twitter, it was early in the service and they created something called the suggested user list which was basically for people who were signing up for the first time to have a few people that they might want to follow just so that they come actually have some information in there on their screen. if you don't follow anybody
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on twitter the service has absoluly zero value to you because there is nothing to read. they created this kind of suggested user list of folks. i think because i was involved as an author with the service from an early point they put me on this list and that gave me a lot of followers because i was on that list now. but now i no longer have that kind of artificial influx of followers because they have stopped using the suggested user list. every time i tweet something out i instantly lose, like 30 followers because, there is some people there is always 30 people i don't want to listen to this guy anymore. so it's a little sad. >> host: how often do you speak to corporate groups or corporations about your thought process? >> guest: it is a big, slowly over the last 10 years or so, my, kind of speaking part of my job has gone from being something that i did occasionally to a big part of what i do and what's great about it is, is
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that i speak to a lot of different kinds of groups. as we'll see as we talk through the books, the books are about a lot of different topics. so i'm particularly with, where good ideas come from, innovation is topic just about everyone is interested in. i get to not only speak to corporations but i talk to schools a lot. and, and nonprofits, future perfect. you know, is very popular, only been out for a couple weeks but i've already seen great response from the nonprofit sector because it is a lot of values that resonate with those folks a lot. you so you get to drop into and you talk to a a food company. then you go and talk to freshmen out of college somewhere. you go and talk to some amazing new philanthropic organizations trying to apply these new considered. -- ideas. there is lot of diversity in the groups i've talk to.
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>> host: i got a several tweets already. this is from jose silva, he tweets, just sold a book to him by making the point that the plane is also a hero in the new york city water landing. >> guest: nice sell. >> host: i want to look at your 2005 book, everything bad is good for you. how today's popular culture is making us smarter. what is aq? >> guest: what is, autism? >> host: the --. >> guest: oh, so the, one of the things that we've learned, over the last 20 or 30 years is the science of the mind has advanced in such a important way in lots of different fields. psychology and neuroscience and neuroimaging and things like that, is that the old way we had of kind of scraping intelligence is too simple. and, the measures that we have, for intelligence,
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don't readily, kind of coloops into one dimension, in fact they're, gardner, the brilliant harvard scientist and discovered there are multiple forms of intelligence. there is spacial intelligence and emotional intelligence and there is kind of problem-solving intelligence and so on. and so we have seen that, what happens in a society it different technologies come out, different cultural developments happen, different models of education happen and, they have kind of surprising effects on those different kinds of intelligence, and so, when we, when we have a society with, you know, kind of tremendous explosion in technology, which causes us to have fewer face-to-face conversations or fewer conversations where we hear somebody else's voice, one of the risks is that
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emotional intelligence we have, the ability to kind of read, kind of emotional nuances of someone's tone for instance gets challenged because we're texting and tweeting and sending short little e-mails to each other. we don't have the full rich experience of face to facial expressions which are a huge part of human communications. we sacrifice some of our emotional intelligence to get other kinds of intelligence, problem solving intelligence, the ability to understand complex systems which is something technology helps us quite a bit. so in that book, i was trying to give larger, and more optimistic portrait of where technology and popular culture was taking us in terms of our brains. >> host: you write the dirty little secret of gaming, online gaming how much time you spend not having fun. when you put down the game and move back into the real world, you may find yourself mentally working through the problem you've been wrestling with. if this is mindless escapism
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it is strangely masochist tick version. >> guest: there's a centerpiece in in, everything is bad is good for you, which is defensive gaming which, if you listen to kind of conventional assessment of the state of kids today, this is a book, seeds of which started around 2000 which i wrote in 2004, 2005. there was just this default assumption, you hear pundits and people talking on television writing op-eds and would just say the kids today they're being dumbed down by these idiotic video games and they're complete waste of time and so on, so forth. here i was kind of generation that had grown up with games. i've never been a huge gamer i've always been interested in it. i had seen what happened in the history of games they had gone from pac-man and, you know, "space invaders"
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where, him pell little graphics moving a joystick back and forth to a game like" sim city", managing a entire met troll police and dealing with a city with thousands of different variables and setting your own goals and building hypothetical models in your head on how the system should work. that was such an incredible story of complex, increased complexity in the games. i knew there was a lot of challenging thinking that went on in those games even though they were frustrating. i think there was a sense games were this kind of instant gratification experience when in fact they were the opposite of that. when you play a complicated game like that you're constantly scratching your head, why can't i get this part of the game to work right? i'm stuck at this thing. if it were instant gratification you would instantly have a beautiful city with million and a half people in it but you never
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do. that's what pulls us in and think about all these problems. i tell you example from more recently again to connect the books a little bit. one of the big values of, future perfect, and, where good ideas come from, we saw a little bit in the kpas of x-damtation. the -- x adaptation. encourages that encourage us to bring little approaches and different points of view and different fields of expertise to bear on a single problem, those systems are very valuable that is part of pier progressive vision of the world. diverse communities will solve problems more effectively. games turn out to be wonderful exerciser of that way of thinking. give you example from past couple years which i haven't had a chance to write about. my kids, my older boys, started playing this game, dawn of discovery. dawn of discovery is a game
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where you simulate a 14th century trading empire. it is not an educational game. this is a game for fun but turns out to be incredibly educational. you basically start with a little island and you've got some crops and little huts and build it up and start trading with other island and get wealthier you build a little town and build a little fleet. you can basically play it as warrior or play it as a merchant. you build up wealth. eventually you have all these objectives but it is incredibly complicated. at a certain point my kids were playing and they wanted to build a cathedral. after you gotten a certain amount of wealth you could build a cathedral. they wanted to achieve this state in the game. but here's what you had to do to be able to build a cathedral. get your population wealthy enough to be able to afford it. you had to have enough stone that you would mine to be able to physically build a can three -- cathedral. you had to have certain
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spices elites of society would have the spices and support building a cathedral. which means you had to have a big fleet of ships to go get the spices somewhere else. which means you had to have a military fleet, naval fleet to protect the ships. so when my kids, 8-year-old, 10-year-old, for fun sitting there trying to build a cathedral. they're thinking like a city mayor. thinking like a merchant prince. thinking like an admiral, thinking like a urban planner, thinking inside the game for fun on saturday morning. this is not what they're doing in school. they will beg to have time on this game. so it's a unified problem with all these different kinds of, thought processes and different kinds of fields that are built into the game. when you look at games like that and you say, compared to what i was doing as a kid which is watching the duke of hazards, i think you have to see that as progress. >> host: one more quote from, everything bad is good for you. one more answer and then
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we'll get to your calls and e-mails and tweets. if you're trying to evaluate a given person's emotional iq and you don't have the option of sitting down with them in person, the tight focus of television is your best bet. reality programing has simply recognized that intrinsic strength and built a whole genre around it. can you explain that? >> guest: yeah. so whenever you write a book, particular a book, everything bad is good for you is most controversial. >> host: and best-selling. >> guest: good ideas and goes map are best-sellers. everything bad got more coverage. one those books people wanted to talk about but felt maybe they already read it because there was so much conversation about it. it sold wonderfully. i have no complaints but the other books sold better. but with a book like that you always have some section of the book where you wish you had phrased things
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slightly differently. there is defense of reality tv in that book. i can't tell you how many radio interviews i did where i got on, said our next guest thinks that watching "big brother" is making us smarter. here he is steven johnson. and i would have to kind of back down. what i say about reality tv is little more subtle than that which is, something like we were talking about in terms of progress, everything bad is good for you, is argument that popular culture in general has gotten more complex over the last 20 or 30 years. there is this trend towards more complexity the kinds of stories it tells and number of say plot lines or characters on your average television show in the complexity of the games as we already talked about, in the complexity of technology we use on the computer screen. all that stuff. so that our, something has gotten more challenging in the, in the stories that we interact with as popular
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culture consumers. that was, the fact that complexity i thought was something people hadn't realized and was worth pointing out. what it was actually doing to our brains is sort of a second level to that argument. with reality tv what i was trying to point out, when we started having shows like "survivor" on television, the way they were comparing them is to documentries which is exactly wrong way to compare them whether television is getting better or not. reality tv shows are game shows but they're game shows where you're company beating by kind of being in this motion aol battle, sometimes physical battle where you're actually competing physically but a lot of times you're kind of in this world where you're yelling at or outsmarting or outfoxing whatever it is with other human beings. thus they are about the kind of emotional intelligence of the participants and reality series. so all i was trying to say is, if you think of a
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reality show as a game show, that even in that most kind of debased genre of television there's still progress because there is more subtlety and nuance to "survivor" than there is to guessing the price of a refrigerator which is what people use to do on game shows when i was a kid or buying a vowel. and so, it's not that the game shows are, i mean reality shows, you know, a tremendous work of art or, if the choice is between reading middle march and watching reality show you should read middle march. given people watch game shows way have them watch reality tv instead of game shows. >> host: is this promotion of here comes honey boo-boo? >> guest: i haven't seen that show. where we widen amount of channels there is more garbage but more three hours of booktv too at the same
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time. there's us as stuff you can point to and say, that is really terrible. it is astonishing. sometimes when i would give talks for everything bad is good for you, i would force people to watch the first five minutes of an episode of" dallas" from 19788 which was hottest show from reality tv. who shot j.r. show, listeners or viewers will remember. it is amazing. ever can catch it on tv fascinating to watch because it is so, the relationship between the producers and the writers and the audience is so condescending. there is this very palpable sense that the creators of the show just think that the audience can't possibly understand who these characters are and they spend two minutes kind of going, these two people are brothers. did everybody get that? whereas show today, not just that edited more quickly, that they're able to kind of
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go much faster and challenge the audience. look at a show like, "lost" which was insanely complicated. that show would have never gotten anywhere near national television in 1977 or '78. so there is tolerance for complexity and, and being challenged that the audience has now that we didn't have when i was growing up. >> host: steven johnson is our guest on "in depth". bill in oklahoma, you are first up today. please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: good morning. i like very much for the people that make these machines and exercise social responsibility and have the people in south los angeles or south chicago trained to make these machines. they desperately need work and also they would be paid a decent wage, relative to china and we wouldn't have anymore of this, at least we
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would be able to cut down majorly on our street crime if these persons had something constructive to do. >> guest: yeah, very interesting point. so there are two things i would say. it is true that we have seen in the success of these technology companies, apple and google and amazon, we've seen a great success in american innovation. that is the part of our society where we all agree that the companies have been tremendously successful and where we really lead the world in terms of technology but a lot of the jobs that are being created to build those gadgets are actually overseas. many of them are in china. and so there is a question how these companies can help us deal with unemployment problem we have or lack of good manufacture manufacturing jobs in this country. let me make a point which is in "future perfect".
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there is question why the tech sector has been so successful. one then we all agree on the state of the economy, that the technology companies in silicon valley and seattle, increasingly in new york are the kind of envy of the world and one key reason for that i think is that the internal structure of these corporations was much more pure network way it worked. much lies hierachical, the decision making in silicon valley firm is much less about the boss at top and much more empowering local employees to make decisions on their own, to innovate on their own. they're much more egalitarian the way they share the proceed. a lot of these company have extensive stock options plans where the lowest level employee participates when the company goes public and so on. all that stuff was new, when the first silicon valley, fairchild and intel founded in '60s and early '70s. they had this ethos where
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they were founded by a bunch engineers. they didn't have a lot of executive perks an everyone should participate in the production of the company. that practice i think is part of why the silicon valley and tech sector has been so successful. one of the cases being more equitable way we share profits inside a corporation, we can actually help deal with the wage in equality and wealth inequality problem we have in this country and have better more successful businesses. that is key value of pier progressive movement i write in. >> host: from new york city, ralph, go with your question or comment for steven johnson. >> caller:. thank you. so interesting and so many things i want to listen to views and you're amazing. i never read any of your books and turn on the tv hear some of my thoughts being spoken. i feel like i'm glad there is someone else thinks the
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way i do about certain things. my question is, could you pinpoint or say anything to speak to a fundamental empowerment that comes with, sort of making history but not being aware of it. and that, it is sort of a secular spirituality in a way that we're part of a wider, there is a wider process going on that we're deeply involved in? i also wanted to say that i wanted to ask you if you thought it's possible that in new york city where i live i watch the crime rate go down so substantially in my lifetime. and one thing that really, i notice it never was mentioned that videogames went on the increase. when i lived in poor neighborhoods, i found that the children were, young people, i should say the, teenagers and what not, that in my generation might have gone out and gotten into trouble, prefered to get into trouble with a videogame. so thus putting together my
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question which is, people who invented game maybe didn't think that would bring crime down? new york city, et cetera. thank you very much and i will hang up to listen. >> guest: thanks, ralph. i'm glad to hear our minds are in sync. mostly because i've been secretly reading your e-mail all these years and that's why --, no, i'm just kidding. two interesting questions. start with the second one first. there is very interesting correlation, we can't necessarily say whether it is causation, very hard to test this, but, if you look for instance at carjackings and compare it to the success of the muchville lied game, grand theft auto, which is all about carjacking, the two kind of go like this. carjacking plummets in terms of the real world as more and more kids are virtually carjacking in the game grand theft auto. whether that is just an
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accident or whether there is in fact some sense in which, if you want to have the kind of the thrill of, you know, doing something like carjacking which is referred to as thrill crime. most people do it for the kind of excitement of it, it would seem a lot more sensible to do it on a screen and not actually arrested and not actually hurt anybody. so it is possible that the games have taken some violence out of the society making it virtual, very hard to prove this anyway. certainly as the games have gotten more violent, the society itself gotten less violent. it is open question why that is whether there is a real connection there. your second point, the sense of being part of a, you called it a kind of a secular spirituality, and i think that is a lovely way of putting it. the sense that we're part of this larger process tendency in this society towards greater and greater, kind of social health and progress
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and that we're all participating in it. in our own little way is a huge part of my work. in fact, we'll probably get to it in invention of air, hero in my book, invention of air, joseph priestly who was writing in the 1700's, he was one first people to really formulate this vision of progress. to point out things were happening due in large part to the enlightenment at that time, every generation people understand more of the world and more efficient and mortgage gets and solving the problems. there was amazing sense the future was before us a great kind of aspect of opportunity and positive change. and, you know, that is the kind of optimistic thread through all of my books. trying to write stories that remind people of that progress, so we, not so that we can rest on our laurels, so we can build more of it. >> host: well let's go there,
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the invention of air. >> guest: right. >> host: who was joseph priestly a little bit more? did he invent air? and what was his connection to john adams and thomas jefferson. >> guest: i stumbled across this book, this project, when i was researching, where good ideas come from and i thought i was getting ready to write where good ideas come from and i stumbled across joseph priestly and i got so obsessed and i convinced my publisher to let me write another book before good ideas. priestly was a incredible figure of the 18th century. one of the great eccentric visionary minds of that period who not enough people know about. he's most famous for isolating oxygen for the first time. though he didn't actually do it for the first time and, when he did, instead of calling it oxygen he had called it defliscated air.
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which is not a very catchy title. he is in the britannica, that is his main claim to fame. he did number of other things. the most important one he was first person to truly realize, this was his first great breakthrough, he was the first person to realize plants were creating air. so the reason we have a breatheable atmosphere in the earth, actual oxygen, actual composition of oxygen on a planet would be far, far smaller than it actually is. because plants expel oxygen as part of photo synthetic process we have this bubble bubble of breatheable air that surrounds the planet. that was one of the key break throughs of understanding out ecosystems work. we have air to breathe because plants manufacture it for us and we're kind of tied up in this global connection of the plants but priestly turns out to have done all these other things. while he was british by birth he was franklin's best
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friend when franklin was in london for those many years. he actually coelaborated with franklin on the air discovery which is a whole tas nating sideshow. priestly was one of the cofounders of the unitarian church in england and he had, his single most powerful effect on jefferson's religious views of anyone. jefferson was a huge, we would now say priestly fan boy and was incredibly moved by priestly. because he was such a maverick he ended up getting run out of england in the birmingham riots and comes to the united states as really our first great kind of intellectual exile, coming for the kind of intellectual freedom. then gets into, gets bound up in, kind of has a falling out with adams. gets bound up in all these controversies in the united states and, ends up being
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this single most mentioned figure in the adams-jefferson letters. he is mentioned 10 times as many times as franklin is, for instance, in the famous correspondence between adams and jefferson. he is kind of like this unsung, this missing founding father who shows up in all these kind of key points in our history that not enough people know about. so i wanted to kind of celebrate his life in that book. >> host: well, steven johnson, very quickly, three quick quotes from, the invention of air that you touched on. priestly and franklin's hunch that plant life was central to the planet's production of breatheable air first approached scientific consensus in the late 1960s, after two physicists proposed in a seminal paper that the vast majority of atmospheric oxygen originated in photosynthesis, the natural level of oxygen on earth, was less than 1% of the 20.7% we now enjoy.
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that's quote number one. number two, jefferson's enlightenment sensibilities made it difficult for him to keep his christian faith alive but the political realities of the day made it equally difficult for him to renounce christ all together. priestly's corruption showed him the way out. christianity was not problem. it was the worked counterfeit version that evolved over the centuries that he would not subscribe to. number three, the sense of gravitas that attended priestly's emigration seems somehow fitting to us now, because priestly was inaugurating what would become one of the most honorable traditions of the american experience. he was the first great scientist exile to seek safe heart boar in america after being persecuted for his religious and political beliefs at home. next call for our guest, steven johnson, comes from phil in north hollywood. phil, thanks for holding. you're on booktv. good afternoon. good morning. >> caller: thank you so
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much. talk about serendipity, the reason i was calling first off because i was disagreeing to the fact much everyone stumbling over how wonderful the internet can be. i'm low-tech in a high-tech world, yet i have to admit my prejudice because i work at a printing museum in carson and my full-time job is as benjamin franklin where i'm researching, great actor's job incidentally, where i'm researching the 18th century and everything else down the line. priestly, that is how i stumbled upon you when i was checking out about priestly and there you were talking about jefferson and so forth. the internet. but i still maintain, as much as there's some wide range of wonderful things, i guess it is the old saw argument, that we all graph state towards our own own prejudice as opposed when i look at a print newspaper in the old days i might be forced looking at editorial or letter or essay about
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something i may not have agreed with in the past but might change my perception. seems with the internet i can gauge myself more or less to my own prejudice and predilections for my own taste and live in cocoon and not be connected with anyone else except myself. i just want to throw that out to you. i really respect and admire your observations on especially with priestly and jefferson. and franklin. but, you know, what is your response to that. i would like to hear. >> guest: it's a very important question. i'm glad you raised it. in fact i talk about it in future perfect in some length. because if it is true that the effect of the internet is to create these bubbles, and these, sometimes call them echo chambers where we only listen to people who are just like us, that would absolutely be betrayal of those kind of diversity values that talked about, right?
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to be a pier progressive to believe that you want to surround yourselves with people who have different perspectives in the world and we'll solve more problems creatively if we do have that kind of creative, diverse conversation in our lives. we agree on that. where we disagree that the internet is necessarily creating those bubbles because while it is true that you can kind of filter out more and kind of focus on your own core group, you are also far more immediately connected to a far wider range of potential positions and interpretations of the world than you were back in the days of print. you're always one click away from somebody who radically disagrees with you. the simplest way to think about it, if you think the internet is creating these echo chambers the problem with the internet there isn't enough arguing going on the internet. if you ever spent any time on discussion board or you know, bulletin board or
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comment area for a newspaper you know there is a lot of arguing going on the internet. in fact we now know that there have been a number of studies recently which really rigorously tried to figure out exactly how strong is the echo chamber online. how does it compare to the echo chamber on television. the echo chamber in newspapers and the echo chambers in real world in face-to-face encounters. in foot -- future perfect i talked about this one group that create ad isolation index. that is a score basically if the isolation index score is very high, it means that the echo chamber effect is very strong. if you're a republican you're only hearing other republicans. if you're a left-wing progressive you're only hearing other left-wing progression serves. they analyze all of different forms of media, in terms of media the internet was right in the middle. it was really not that much different from cable television, not that much different from newspapers. all basically the same.
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. . >> the media has been in force for diversity.
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post macmichael, you're on the phone with steven johnson. >> caller: hello, there are a lot of companies trying to organize innovation. do you think innovation can be organized and encouraged? something like bell labs or maybe the things that google does now? >> guest: i absolutely do think it can be. that is what i'm trying to do which was to talk about these various different techniques. you know, 3-m and google have experimented with this. the 20% time for the employees. for certain were certain employees are given 20% of their time to work on basically whatever they want. their own side project, their own little hunches, actually to
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use language that i used in my book. the only real responsibility is to report to the supervisor every month or so other 20% time project is going and if they have switched over to another project. that 20% of time because it is open ended and evolves the unique compassion that employee, it allows the company to have fresh ideas all the time. and anytime they can stop the 20% of time. google news, parts of gmail, social networking, part of their advertising engine, it started as 20% time experiments. it is allowing employees what their hobbies be part of their job. a lot of the people that i
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profile in turn eight, people like priestley, or looking back on the book like "the ghost map" come all these people come one of the defining characteristics is that they have a lot of hobbies. when you think about ben franklin, he had an insane number of hobbies. a lot of great things can happen when you're just by yourself. it reminds you of some connection and a new angle perhaps on the problem with this network. and that smart companies are starting to realize the full diversity of each employee's interest is not something they should suppress. >> like don't bring your hobbies and work, but it to allow them
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to open and shape up new possibilities for each employees. >> host: a lot of what you talk about is unique to the economy. you could do that in a hospital or a car company? >> guest: i will tell you about a great thing that i heard there was a program started by general mills and a couple of other companies. they weren't necessarily even into, but a bunch of different fields. they had this realization that they had all these employees, people who have retired, those that were 62 or 78, still mentally at the top of their game -- they created this network across the different
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countries where all of the retired employees could check in on this website, and someone who was currently working at the company, they stumbled across a problem, they could work on it. and anyone that was tuned in, the merit of employees, they could suggest an answer. the story that i've heard i heard is that there was an employee at general mills that was stuck on google loves. the fruit rollup was too sticky. and there was a guy from 3-m know exactly how to get the right adhesion for this thing. you know, it was because they set up this platform.
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it was because they were allowing people from different fields, entirely different companies and industries to look over the shoulder of other people. they were able to come up with an inventive solution to the problem host mark well, steven johnson, the gentleman who came up with the right stickiness for a fruit rollup, should he be allowed to have that property? >> guest: the default function that we have the patents are good for innovation and if we allow people to own and have a proprietary ownership of their ideas, we will have more innovation, because people will be incentivized to make the vast fortunes that they will make
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from their invention. what i'm trying to point out is that yes, those rewards are important, and yes, you want to -- that's what you want to point out the power of the markets. but so much of innovation comes from another idea and building on it. what happens do and intellectual property restrictions do is they create artificial diction in the process of borrowing an idea and improving it and putting it into context. it can actually be a hindrance to innovation if it is too rigid. in fact, this is a big point from previously. a big point from "emergence." he was writing about this topic
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and he wanted to attract the attentions of other geniuses. so that franklin can say, hey, what if you added this, and turn it into something better. you have to get the balance right. it is not that it's necessarily go away, but we have to figure a way out a way to allow ideas and have that kind of circulation that they need to lead to breakthroughs. >> host: you are watching the tv as is our monthly program, and death. steven johnson is our guest.
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learning is not just about information, it is also just about -- it is also about storing information in knowing where to find it. how do you relate to current episodes on data to the statement and can we learn more by storing more and is there a best way to store more information? >> guest: i'm glad he wrote about "emergence." it's a great book to reference. there is a data story in "future perfect", which gets to this question entirely. one of the platforms, is the 311 platform. which is in many cities around the country. the most advanced version of it is in in new york city. what 311 does is allow anyone to
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call three numbers on the phone, to talk to a live human being, and they can report problems and report a noisy bar down the street, they can ask questions. is their there alternative parking, our schools closed today, they can ask for services they need, i need a battered women's shelter, etc. what makes it so powerful, not just that you get a live human being who can answer your question, the city takes in all that data and analyzes it. and they store it. and they use it to create a dashboard where they can see all the problems that are unmet needs thatre emerging in the city. it allows them to be much more resilient and adaptable and flexible and inventive. identifying problems and solving them. again, this is a classic network kind of structure gives the argument of "in "future perfect" the city has taken on these people who were not on the payroll of the government,
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ordinary people walking around with a cell phone, they took that network of peers and neighbors and allow them to solve the problems of the city. the bizarre thing and started to happen in the book in new york, that i actually experienced living in new york -- there is a certain neighborhood on the west side of manhattan, for no apparent reason, they would start to smell like maple syrup. so people would be walking in west chelsea and they said, it smells like pancakes. with colin to the 311 number because this is after 9/11, and people were afraid that it was some kind of chemical attack from the and jemima wing of al qaeda or something. so they would call in and they would report this strange smell. the cities and the people to test the air.
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finally, after years, they realized that the data that they had been storing that had been sitting there in their databases for all this time, actually it gave clues and they could figure out what is causing the smell because they know where all the calls were coming from each day that it actually erupted. they went back and they looked at the exact location of the calls. the wind patterns for each day. when you analyze where the wind was each day and the clusters of calls were, it pointed back to this exact point in new jersey, and they drove this point and they realized that right there was this industrial artificial
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flavoring plant, where they would manufacture stuff that was in maple syrup. what i love about it is that, talk about the power of art forms, while is not a chemical attack, when they were designing 311, nobody said we want to make sure that the service is very good and there is a maple syrup outbreak and we can detect where it is coming from. because it is an open platform and because they were storing all that data and they knew how to analyze it. >> host: we have someone who tweets in and asks continues to florist? >> guest: open source is a form
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of opera collaboration and it continues to florist. people who don't necessarily know each other, they don't necessarily work for the same company, they contribute small pieces. there is a small company called lenox, they use limits for a cell phone foundation -- and their other forms of open source software that are in every iphone and every ipad and every macintosh computer.
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imagine that you could -- the were some kind of doctor evil who could create a special magnetic pull that would cause every piece of open source for piece of software to fail. what would happen as a society? this cannot happen. just to imagine it. internet will go down, e-mail will go down, the web would go down. every and were advised to go down. stock markets would go down, planes would fall out of the sky from the energy sector would fail. there would be a global catastrophe. the point of this is to show how dependent we are as a society on this kind of open source collaborative labor. the fact that here's the thing that would've sounded like a utopian utopian fantasy 25 or 30 years ago. now, we are hooked on it as a
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progressive society. whether it is the private sector or the public sector. all of us now depend upon the product of that pure network collaboration. you know, when i look at how much we build and upload of collaboration, that is the thing that makes me say, what more can we do? what can we saw with this peer networking approach? >> host: the next call comes from alta dena, california. paco hello? we are going to have to put you on hold. you need to turn down the volume on your tv. we have bob in florida. >> caller: this is a great show and i appreciate that show in the guest as well. i am working on something and i am listening to you guys at the same time.
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i believe there are at least a handful of us who certainly appreciate this stuff. mr. johnson's perspective on this and his ability to articulate the issues. let me get right in to my dilemma. i work at a local and state level to advocate for the inclusion of a detailed analysis of options in the information of progressive ideas, and that progressive policies on various issues at the local and state government as private citizens. what i have found is that the established order of things has been inhibiting the implementation of innovation. let's say, certainly i have specific examples that i won't go into, but you probably know, public utilities, like how they operate, and they can hold back
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innovation and innovative applications of new technologies because they are in concert with the state regulators to protect their interests. it inhibits the evolution of innovation. which we didn't have in the past. the waste disposal as opposed to recycling is something most people are familiar with as an issue. the time allotted for doing that keeping them out of the happier that is dedicated to the preservation of the natural resources, turtles on the beaches on the light. so if you go back to what you mentioned earlier about your son's name in the spice world, then there was so much room for innovation to occur as a parallel, at a parallel place where someone can come up with a steamship and build it. and all of a sudden, the
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scenario changes of it. but now, everything is so crowded and sophisticated and understood, that these larger interest can prevent innovation. >> host: okay, bob, we got the point. >> guest: okay, thank you for the kind words. it is great that you are working and watching at the same time. maybe interesting things will happen. you know, it is a real issue. when you have entrenched institutions, and this is true in the private sector and public sector. they have a certain approach and they have a certain kind of institutional inertia to them and they are hard to move and hard to innovate. in government particularly has that problem. but i think one of the things, it sounds like you are involved in doing, which is having systems that widen the pool of participation from ordinary
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citizens who again are not on the payroll. 311 was a great example of that. the other example that i talk about at some length in "future perfect" is developing what we call purchase of the tory budgeting. i'm not just talking about high-tech solutions to problems. this is something that was done with people organizing and reading face-to-face. there is no technology involved. the idea is that in local government, each year there is a certain amount of taxpayer dollars are allocated for funds that are devoted to projects that have been determined by communities and neighbors themselves. so every year from all the neighborhoods -- the communities
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would get together and they would say, what are their needs in this community? what are we looking for here? the city is growing and they have a lot of infrastructure needs. and the neighbor neighbors would say we need the sewer line here, the electricity grid here, another room in the local school, playground here -- and the neighbors themselves would create this linked list of priorities for their communities. the dollars from the state would then get devoted to those priorities based on what the ordinary citizens do. the money came from the state, but the decision of what it should fund came from the streets and the ordinary folks in the community who were not working for the government. what was created was, it helps deal with the waste and corruption in the institutional inertia that you so often find with government. because it was much harder for a project just kind of disappear
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and never get made, the money disappear, because people were like -- wait, we asked for that sewer line extension. where is the? it was supposed to be done six months ago? we were the people who put it in motion. suddenly, things got built much more quickly. i get into a lot more details about how dramatic the improvement was. but it also created this positive feedback where citizens participated in this process. they saw the results. the next year, their lives were better, their communities were better. they came back for more because they had a sense of, well, i can actually change things in my world i get involved. now the budgeting is used by more than 10% of european towns. and it is on the ground and working in parts of brooklyn and parts of chicago. it is a great example of that kind of pure network approach to how our taxpayer dollars should be spent. >> host: glennon altadena,
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california, are you ready? >> caller: , thank you so much. thank you so much. my question is [inaudible name] to children of average intelligence estimates he could come in for 25 years, he experimented with them and he figured out that we are dumbed down by 80 iq points, the lowest child tested twice, and he had an iq come the lowest one of 180 on the stanford test of twice. a lot of them scored 200, and they are supposed to be average kids. you know, this kind of thing is not -- this is like 30 years ago that he did this. it just hasn't taken hold.
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he has written books and put them all over the world. >> host: so you are saying that children were dumbed down by what? >> caller: it is done by matt. >> host: how are they being dumbed down? >> caller: just doing the numbers like seven and five -- the numbers for children, it dumps them down. by 80 iq points. it is scientifically proven. he took average children over 25 years in these really good experiments. >> guest: i'm not familiar with that experiment, but it's worth mentioning here a big name of everything that is good for you. it is a fascinating, long-term trend, which is all around the world. it is the long-term trend, industrialized ascites or iq
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points to improve -- iq scores to improve over time. this is the documented study in iq. the debate about why it is happening is where there is real debate. i kind of argue that there is a possibility that the kind of thinking that one has to do in advanced technology situations and advanced communication would tend to translate into higher iq scores on a test, because there is similarity in the kinds of problems that you have to solve on an iq test. i think this gentleman has written about this quite a bit, and there is an increased problem-solving exercise that
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you have from technology and other forms. and of course, you take more tests, which is important. one hundred years ago, did not take as many tests. it may be a little bit of an echo effect. it was when you measure it by iq, again, as i said before, iq is not the full story of intelligence. there are a lot of other different connections to it. but we do know that each generation has been getting smarter on an iq level for quite some time now. >> host: and in fact, the book "everything bad is good for you: how today's popular culture is actually making us smarter", he writes the great unsung story of our culture today is how many welcome trends are going up. anthony in san antonio, texas. you are on booktv with steven johnson. >> caller: good morning, mr. johnson. let me just say what a distinct pleasure it is to talk to you.
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i want to say in 2005, i was a counselor educator and i taught a continuing education class counselors throughout the san antonio community. believe me, i used your book, the looks were bewilderment and total aggravation. the title freak them out. learning is prefigured. the kids were teaching me. i didn't know anything about computers. how are we going to use it to guard against plagiarism? this had nothing to do with it. the resistance, as the time went on, and when i wrote my little blurb on amazon at 11 responses, only two people agreed with it. so this resistance among practitioners had to be tremendous. when the little kid wrote the iphone initiative about two or
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three years ago, and i played that in one of my classes, the ones over 45 and 50 years old work against it. but the younger ones were part of the global village and they were connected like an umbilical cord. so we are getting better at this >> guest: i'm glad the book was helpful. thank you. two things come to mind. when i wrote everything that was good for you, in my book "everything bad is good for you", one thing was in the writing of it is that i had a couple of distinct audiences in mind for that book. a lot of that is trying to get that book right is about managing these different imagined readers in my head as i was writing it. so i wanted to write it in part for teachers and educators and people who were thinking about the media. so that would touch that academic context. i was also writing it took
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senior olds who were having a fight with their parents over how much time they should be allowed to play video games and giving them almost a bit of a generational book that they could resonate and connect to and it would sound like someone was finally understanding what they were doing with their media. trying to get the balance right is always a tricky thing with the writer. the other thing i tried to do with my book is -- we always approach a new technology with the kind of biases of how the old studies to work. i had that, too. the technology that i grew up with. networked games, which i really didn't play the kid, why would you want to play games with all these other people. but with games, one of the things that i did was this little imagination trick. of what would it be like if james had come before books, and kids have been playing video games for like 300 years, all of
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a sudden, books were invented, and that was the new trend. all of the kids were crazy about. you know, reading books instead of playing games. it was something like, you know, these kids, they are reading books and it is just words. it involves images and sounds and decision-making, and these kids are just -- they can't make choices, they are being forced to be passive and follow the storyline of other authors, which is going to create a generation of not leaders but all who are just followers. and that exposed all these dyslexic kids for books came along and you go to the libraries and the children are just sitting there, just sitting alone in silence at these little books, and what a horrible thing for our kids.
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obviously, i did not believe that, and i'm a big believer in books and i write books for a living. but it was a way of trying to get people to understand that health default prejudice is real and important that we have to understand that the new technology has its own opportunities and benefits as well. >> host: we are talking with steven johnson. beginning in 1999, his book first came out "interface culture", followed by "emergence" and "mind wide open." in 2005 "everything bad is good for you" came out. "the ghost map" came out in 2006, and in 2008 "the invention of air", and in 2010 "where good ideas come from" came out. in his newest book on the market, "future perfect" is the name of that book. we always ask our authors on
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this program about what they are reading and who they have as influences. little tidbits of fact. we want to show you that right now. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ >> host: steven johnson, he listed some of your greatest influences. john snow was one of them. who was he? >> guest: he was the hero of one of two heroes, really, of my book, "the ghost map." again, he was again part of the great thinkers having a lot of hobbies. he was a doctor in london in the middle of the 19th century. he was just a local physician was working with the poor, which at the time, one of the poorest and most densely populated
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neighborhoods in all of london. and he did a number of side projects. he didn't breakthroughs in anesthesiology as a hobby. but the big thing that happened is that one of the great mysteries at the time, what was causing cholera, which was a great 19th century killer. so these outbreaks would occur that would kill 20,000 people. at the time, over the course of the summer, and of course, he got interested in 1848 or so, and at the time, the authorities were convinced that people were breathing in something that was noxious in the air that was causing it and they would get sick and die. this is one of the great medical mistakes of the period. cholera, we now know is in the water and it comes from contaminated water supply.
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so we have this cool crucial problem. we were looking for infectious agents in the wrong place. so in the late 1840s, he began to do his own investigation. eventually, in the late summer of 1854, an outbreak corrupted in his neighborhood, which went on to become the most concentrated and terrifying outbreaks of cholera in the history of england. but courageously, because this happens, he decided to investigate it as it was happening. he started going around, knocking on doors, people had been carried down the street and had been piled together. he ends up collaborating with the local vicar who had been
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completely ignored and he began to build a case and build a map, which is where the title, "the ghost map" comes from, it shows there is a very strong collection of debts right around this public watering hole where people would get their water at 40 broad street at the center of soho. based on that map, the authorities were convinced eventually that the miasma theory was wrong. what has happened here was that it had gotten contaminated and over time the authorities came around that one of the greatest achievements of the 19th century -- by 1866, thanks to mr. snow's detective work, cholera is gone
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from london for good, never to return again. twelve years after the operate. it is a story of a mind to change the world, collaborating with a very different kind of mind that changed the world. but it is the one book that i wrote as a kind of a thriller. so what has this kind of narrative that i can say was incredibly fun to write. because of this, it has this quality, which i can say, none of my other books have. >> host: was john snow celebrated for his achievements? >> there are some people who recognize it yet but he died in 1958, just four years later.
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when you write nonfiction, when you write history, when you really want something to be true but you can't prove it, you really want something to be true, and you can't find evidence of it, with apple, i really wanted mr. snow and mr. whitehead to develop a great friendship in the middle of this terrible outbreak, which you would want this great bond. for a long time, but couldn't find any evidence of it. until finally, i discovered this obscure little autobiography that whitehead had written. he lived to 80 or 90 or something like that. he willed his autobiography and it was in the new york public library. i couldn't find it in new england. but i found it in the new york public library. sitting there in the room, there is a line in reading this book,
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that says we run is tremendous adventure together and ever after, a portrait of john snow has hung in my library to remind me of that momentous week we spent together and how it changed all our lives, and how i look up to him. and i really started tearing up in the library. because they were friends, after all, that is one of my all-time great research stories. >> host: in your book "the ghost map" committee right that the construction of the new sewers was every bit as epic as the building of the eiffel tower and the brooklyn bridge. if their investigation show that urban intelligence could come to understand the health crisis, sewers proved that you could do something about it. >> guest: yes, there is an urban infrastructure appreciation but
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i think we need to have more of. one of the best things about it, for me as an author, after the book came out, you have google alerts were somebody writes a review about him, i started getting the reviews from people who were uploading the photos from their vacations and they were saying, here we are in london on vacation visiting the site of "the ghost map" or the sewers that we read about in "the ghost map", and i thought, if you are in lifting people like that come you have something going on. >> host: if you would like to talk to steven johnson, dial in on the numbers on the screen. or you can contact us at apple tv and you can send an e-mail at marie is in georgia, you have been holding patiently. please go ahead.
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>> caller: i have a very enthusiastic mind. i know who the self-taught people are just me. if you asked me any topic, i usually know there are four or five people that control the topic, and i just wanted to -- i watch how fast you learn. you are a speed burner and into information and how did this come about? i saw the people who influence your life, and i'd love to hear you talk more. >> host: to say at the beginning that you learned to read when you were 31 years old? >> caller: yes, i had brain
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damage. i am 75. but i have all apple computers, have six of them. >> host: what was that like you to go through as a young adult not knowing how to read? >> caller: hanging around four-point oh students, they will help you. the teachers will get offended because you don't do what they say when they say it. but the four-point oh people are really kinder to you. i always hung around the top people. >> guest: thank you for calling in. the idea of finding the top people in the field, that part of what i get to do for a living, which is a wonderful thing, as my book, there is a
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kind of speed learning process to it. people at the very top of their field are very specialized. is that when you listen to them talk about their work, they don't have a very good sense of what is most interesting to an ordinary person in their work. they are working at the very edge of their discipline. there is something they agreed that everyone knows is a given, now and now they are working on the new problems.
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you will have a conversation with them and you will see something in passing, and they will say, it's always fun to get to hang around with those folks and try to figure it out, what it is that they have underestimated the value of end translate that. that when folks like me can understand. >> host: how did you get interested in writing? >> guest: you know, i was always very -- i always like to write. when i was in college and grad school, after that, i would have
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friends over and they would say that's really not very cool, stephen,. [laughter] when wired came out in 1993, i was in grad school at columbia. and here is this magazine and i was writing about technology as a cultural force. we were really talking about where all this technology would take us. where we could combine the cultural and historical stuff that i was studying in grad school, and state-of-the-art technology that was so interesting. at a certain point i started realizing the last 50 books that
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had been held in science books. i had kind of a mediocre background in it, and my parents are still making fun of me because they say that we saw your high school biology grades and you are not a good biology student. i was getting more and more interested in the science side of things. and i thought, maybe i will try my hand at popular science. so there are diverse influences, the three rivers of interest to science of creating and converging to books that are funny. >> host: will be read on a regular basis? via technology? when you think of technology? [talking over each other] >> guest: sure, those guys are wonderful. at one point we were talking about before, which was an earlier call was talking about the echo chamber effect. and you keep track of folks that
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are similar to you and your taste. one of the things that i have found is that it is very useful for me personally about twitter, and i suppose you could do this with facebook, as i tried cautiously to follow a diverse mix of people. i follow a bunch of musicians and technology writers and architecture critics, and what i get out of that is not the 140 characters, but rather it's the wing that they are sharing on twitter about things they have read, which is a big thing. you know, it is pointing to a 6000 world new yorker article or something much longer or more substantial than just a tweet. it is that group that the
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determination of my random morning reading over copies before work -- that group has more control over what i read in the editorial boards of "the wall street journal." those people are often pointing to it. it's my little coffee house. my little diverse group of folks who are my guide through the day. i think that is a great use of social media. but you have to choose to have an eclectic mix of people. you can't follow one group of people in one profession. >> host: we have someone who tweet ntu. how might higher education leverage some of your concepts to meet future needs of our society? >> there is a lot of interesting work, the concept of simulation,
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like i was referring to earlier. you know, one of the things that happens when you present information to students by simulation rather than a lecture or two reading a book is that they have a much more immersive understanding of the system that they are setting. so imagine they are studying a history class when the revolutionary war. the court experience, which is assimilation of an entire kind of total situation. so you would supplement that with reading and the primary thing would be assimilating all the events that led to the revolutionary conflict. and so they would simulate the
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geopolitical tensions, the actual climate and topography that have impact on the military and the political movement there. all of that stuff can be done and modeled in software. the tricky part about something like that is that every now and then, the british would win. and so you have to have a mechanism we can tell about the students -- we can tell that this is what happened, the british didn't win. the students would get out of that a much more vivid and much more tactile sense of what it was like to be let back on what the various pressures were from the different variables that went into that revolution. >> host: the next call for steven johnson calls from idaho falls. >> caller: hello, stephen, it seems to me that what you
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exhibit is a perspective of faith, and i don't know if you are really comfortable with that word or if you have questions to me about what does faith mean to me? >> host: roxy, explain what you mean. >> caller: okay, face to me is that which is not faith is a mistake. i am surprised when people don't come from a perspective of faith. it is electric and energizing. >> guest: let's talk about this in a context of joseph priestley. because he was a deeply religious person and one of the things that he talked about in his works was the electric language and dealings of the sublime that one gets when you
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think about forward march of history and of progress. that was a big thing for him. you can imagine this is literally the work of god. society is growing more advanced, human beings are having more compassion. see that progress marching along a something that was much bigger as an individual, having a feeling of being moved along by something and participating in that movement, it is a deep and profound part of the human condition. one of the great experiences, intellectual and emotional experiences that you can have is human. i absolutely do believe that. there is an element of faith to that. it is probably not the word that i would use, but that element of
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wanting to something larger than yourself that is taking you to a better place of some kind it is a sentiment that i think we need to have more of in society and institutions that encourage that kind of feeling in human beings are institutions that are valuable to us. i think you can have that feeling and encourage more people to have that feeling by telling stories that come from secular roots and the understanding of science and the social sphere, or in some cases, technology, one doesn't necessarily have to start a revolution in a traditional sense. but that feeling of the sublime but there is something larger than you, that is great. >> host: do you get that question often, steven johnson? >> guest: i don't get it quite as often with other books, but i
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do get it for this book. the technology version, the similarity, which is kind of like a technology future that we are headed towards, the point in which machine intelligence will advance to the point where it exceed human intelligence and we can lose control over the machines on some level. this is either a dystopian idea is in the terminator movies were a utopian idea for filing, things will be smarter and smarter than humans and let them solve the problems of society. that is the new kind of rhapsody in tech circles. i do get asked about that a little bit more. >> host: steven johnson is our guest. we have about an hour left in this month special "in depth." rob in ohio, you were on with steven johnson. >> caller: thank you so much. it is a pleasure to speak with you, and mr. johnson. if i could just take a moment and divert my attention to peter slen. i want to say your
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professionalism as far as all the booktv interviews do is wonderful. my appreciation. >> host: you are very kind. ..
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>> guest: this is such an honor to be on this show and so wonderful to have so much time to talk about the books. um, so it's -- this has really been special for me. my, my work ethic is to try to writeall --to set .. write, when i'm in the middle of a book, when i'm actually writing a book, i try to write 500 words a day. and i try to do it in the morning, um, because that's -- >> host: how much is 500 words? >> guest: 500 words, it's about a page, maybe a page and a half. yeah, sorry, writers think in
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words which i realize most people don't. it's like a short op-ed. you know, an op-ed in a newspaper would be 500-1,000 words, something like that. so i try to write 500 words a day, and, you know, that's not -- if i know what i'm working on, i can sometimes do it in 25 minutes. sometimes it takes me three hours, it depends how hard it is and how much i have to fill in. and if i do a little extra, that's great, but i try and just get that done. and if you do that every day, you don't wake up in the morning and go, oh, my gosh, i have to write an entire chapter today. and if you do that for three, four, five months, you've got a book. i mean, it adds up to enough words for a book. now, the one thing that i try and do, kind of a weird technique i've developed over the years is i don't reread the chapters as i'm writing them. so when i sit down in the morning and i'm in the middle of
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a chapter, i'll briefly reread so i remember where i was, and i'll start writing the next 50 words, and then i'll sit down and reread the whole chapter once, do an edit on it and then put it away, and i won't reread the chapter until i'm done with the entire book. and the reason i do that is because the sendty is to reread. by the time you're done with the book, you have read the thing 50 times or, you know, a hundred times maybe, and you're so bored of it, and everything seems so obvious and predictable because you've read it so many times that you can't tell what's working and what's not. so when i sit down to read the whole book having only read each chapter through once, i can really read it with fresh eyes, and often times i find that i've repeated myself word for word at two points in the book because
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i'd forgotten that i've written one section here, and then i showed up and wrote that exact same section somewhere else. so there are a lot of mistakes, and it's noisy, but i get a sense of what's flowing. i read it almost as if i've never read it before. and it also helps me write faster. so that's my technique that i've developed. >> host: steven johnson, where do you live right now? >> guest: we've just moved, for a couple years, a little california adventure, to mar run county, california, after being in manhattan or brooklyn for 21, 22 years. >> host: why'd you move out there? >> guest: we wanted to try something different. our kids were at a nice age where they were out of diapers, but today didn't yet have girlfriends -- [laughter] and we have three boys. and we have this nice thing where we can kind of live anywhere because we have a lot of flexibility. i don't have to go into a office, my wife -- who used to work at mtv -- isn't working
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there now. and so -- >> host: may we ask who your wife is? >> guest: my wife is alexa robinson, she was a producer at mtv. she wasn't a vijay. >> host: okay. >> guest: and she -- and so we wanted to try and go on some kind of adventure with the kids to take advantage of the fact that we can live anywhere. and i've always loved northern california, and i have a lot of friends out there. because of all the technology projects that i've been involved with and things that i've written about, you know, it was helpful professionally to be out there for a while. so we've been off on this adventure for a year now. >> host: john in bellingham, washington, good afternoon. please go ahead with your question or comment for steven johnson. >> caller: hi, pleasure speaking to you. 8, i was a first wave environmental planner back in the mid '70s, so i'dhead of your ghost -- i'd heard of your ghost maps story. and in -- after i graduated i
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thought i'd kick around the idea of architecture plus ecology and play with computer models and satellite data late at night without authorization. [laughter] before the term hacker or geospatial intelligence technology was invented. anyway, i became a mr. mom in '82 because that was really going nowhere. today, however, it looks like, you know, cloud technology and c factor computing and a lot of these breakthroughs are going to make three dimensional environmental computing feasible. the problem i saw then was a global vision in a flat world, you know? we didn't really have a three dimensional philosophy. to work with this new technology. and i don't even see it there now. and it's kind of a little troubling, you know? any comments, thoughts?
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thanks. >> guest: yeah, great. what an interesting background. so here's, here's what i would say. this is something that has really started to -- i've been thinking about it a bunch since future perfect came out. so the power that we have now thanks to the kind of peer network collaboration that i'm talking about in that book is we now have all this data that we can gather, we now have the ability for far more people to participate in identifying the problems in society whether it's environmental problems, whether it's things that aren't working in cities, whether it's things in goth. government. so there's a lot of opportunity, i think, for a new and much more optimistic vision of how we can make the world a better place and for kind of a new political framework there. and, obviously, that's the core of future perfect, is kind of a celebration of those opportunities and telling the story of those opportunities. the question i have, and it is
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genuinely a question, is as powerful as those kinds of network systems are, are those decentralized forms of collaboration capable of long-term thinking? because, you know, when we think about environmental issues, um, and we think about even urban planning, you know, oftentimes the most important role that traditional states and governments are going to have is their ability to kind of look out on the 10-year scale or the 20-year scale or the 50-year scale and say, okay, we don't necessarily need this bridge right now, but we know we're going to need it in ten years, and we've got the money, so let's build it now so we're ready for it in ten years. or we have to think on that long-term scale. and we know that this is one of the limitations of markets, is that the private sector tends to think kind of quarter to quarter. and thinking ten years in
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advance is something that, you know, you've got to be crazy to do that. and so i hope that there's a way many which we can build these kind of peer networks that will be capable of thinking in that long-term way. but i'm not sure if that's possible, and that may be always an important role, kind of traditional planning, top-down planning for all its limitations, that kind of planning still has a vital role to play precisely because it can look 50 years in the future. >> >> host: well, mr. johnson, is it fair to say that "future perfect" is kind of your dense network of human intelligence, that because of your previous books "future perfect" came about? >> guest: yeah. you know, they all -- not all of them, but most of them have this theme about, you know, kind of as i was talking about before, group collaboration, diverse interests coming together, jumping kind of from field o field, the power of kind of an open platform. that's a big theme of "emergence," it's a big theme of
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"ghost map" and "invention of air." and so i feel like "future perfect" was always sitting there in the background, um, in the sense of a political philosophy, right? so those books were never really about the world view of, you know, what are the institutions that could make the place -- make the world a better place. they were stories about heroic people from the past or locking at technology or the question of innovation. but really when i was at the end of where good ideas come from, i realized everything i was arguing for in that book was impolice -- implicitly a world view. and if you believe in group collaboration, you're not exactly fitting in the democratic party or the republican party. and there budget quite a slot for the people that i was most inspired by. and that's, and that's really why i sat down to write "future perfect." it was fun because it's the first openly political book that i've written.
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but it seems, for my sake, most political groups seem to be just for one side saying nasty things about the other side and vice versa, so it's funny to write a political book that actually is, one, upbeat and, two, trying to figure out a way -- trying to figure out a way to present a third alternative that is not just kind of squishy centrism. i'm just saying we want a little of the left and the right and we'll be moderate. no, there's an additional set of tools here that are not just big government. and we have an opportunity now to really put those tools to work in this a new way, and we should be excited about that. >> host: well, poor richard d.c. has tweet inside a couple of different tweets, but his latest is, what is the 311 equivalent for our politics? and he also sent in a tweet that said is there innovation in politics? >> guest: yeah. >> host: rather than government. >> guest: great question. so one of the things that i talk about in "future perfect" is,
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um, you know, major problem we have right now is campaign finance, right? that we have, again, a betrayal of those values of diversity that happens in terms of the way that campaigns are funded. so, you know, you have a tiny, tiny slice of the population that is funding these super pac and maxing out their campaign. this slice of the population makes the 1% look like the proletariat. so the whole political system is oriented around this very small number of donors or big corporations or big unions that contribute to these capables. and so you -- campaigns. and so you don't have enough perspectives shaping the kind of values of the politicians because they're so dependent on the money. now, the traditional kind of left-wing argument is you just have public funding of the campaigns and take all that private funding out of it which is complicated, and you probably would have to have a constitutional amendment to make that happen.
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but a few folks who are really some of my heros, larryless ig and a few other people, have proposed this other system which is they call it democracy vouchers. and it seems to me it's a great embodiment of the kind of peer progressive ideals which is to say don't just have the state take over the campaign, that would be too top-down. the campaign finance. give everybody $50 of their taxes that they're going to pay or give them a tax credit if they don't pay taxes, and let them spend that $50 on any candidate that they want or on any party they want. and they can add $100 to that, um, if they -- with their own money if they want. if they don't specifically earmark their money for a candidate or a party, then that $50 goes to the party they're registered with, um, and if they aren't registered with the party, it goes to support the mechanics of the elections. and any candidate, that would create this giant pool of money. and any candidate who wanted some of that money would be able to get it as long as they,
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basically, swore off any other kind of funding. so it would be entirely opt-in, but it'd be so much money that people would opt into it. and that would have this process of diversifying the greater number of contributors financially to the campaigns, which would be great, and it would mean that, you know, people weren't just sitting there chasing big donors and having all these cocktail parties and big benefits all the time which is a waste of their time, and it gets bad results in politics because they're listening to a small number of people, and they're not governing when they're going out raising all this money. so i think it's those kinds of solutions, they're somewhat ambitious, it's hard to figure out exactly how we would build them, but at least we should have a model that we can point to in society and say this is how it would be better, and this is how we can improve things, and we can at least try and figure out how to steer the ship of state towards these goals instead of just having this feeling that gridlock is inevitable, and the political system doesn't work anymore.
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>> host: david in eugene, oregon, thanks for holding. please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: hi. this is for mr. johnson. it's two things. one, i'm wondering what steps a person could take day-to-day to encourage cultural progress, and the second is what could the "in depth" program do to incorporate the pure network model? let's say after we have a chance to read your book or some of your books, e-mail in with some thoughts and maybe months from now there could be a follow-up program where you respond to some of them? or do you have any ideas how to incorporate the model? >> guest: well, those are good ideas right there, i mean, i like that. it feels very just right now it's so fun to just be having these conversations live. so there's an actual conversation happening, which is great. but, yeah, the opportunities with books, books are interesting because, you know, fundamentally they are a
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one-to-one conversation, a one-way conversation, really, between an author and a reader x. they remain this kind of strangely private act in society, and increasingly kind of public society there's this weird intimacy you get as an author where you talk directly to your readers. but there is a lot of interesting stuff happening now, but i'm helping a little bit with a service called findings that is trying to encourage people to do more social reading, where they're reading their book in private, but they can take quotes that they are inspired by and share them with other people, they can see what other people are reading. and the opportunity to kind of go through and have this kind of open network kind of book club, um, where people are reading and discussing, and the author is part of that process, is the tools for that have never been more advanced than they are now. so there's a great, there's great opportunity there. um, and i've forgotten what the first question was. >> host: i did too. you know what? as soon as -- david, i've got to
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tell you, as soon as you did that, i just remailed the producer -- e-mailed the producer of this program, noted the time of your call, noted your name, said let's get his number and want to make sure that we follow up with that idea in some way as an open source, open network or do a follow-up with steven johnson. so you know what? i didn't even hear what mr. johnson said. [laughter] i usually listen, but i was following up on your idea immediately. >> guest: let me say one other thing particularly about "future perfect," but this b has been true of some of you concern my books. you write books because you want to entertain people or persuade them of a perspective on the world, or you want to tell them a rich story and help them understand the world. some books are written that way. every now and then you write a book, and "future perfect" is one of them, where you're trying to encourage people to surprise you, right? [laughter] you're trying to tell them enough stories and give them a
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framework they can use, and the hope is that people will read "future perfect" and go out and then build a kind of peer network in some other facet of the society that i hadn't thought about at all, that wasn't on my road map at all, but five years from now i'll hear about it and say, that's fantastic, and you're so good for going and inventing that on your own. so maybe if this show is one of the first ones to do that, that would be all too fitting. [laughter] >> host: next call for steven johnson comes from keane in buoy, maryland. hi, keane. >> caller: good afternoon, mr. johnson. i enjoyed reading the book, i bereave the title "where good ideas come from." >> sure. >> i happened to work in the hopkins physics lab. >> guest: oh, yeah, sure. >> caller: i know the doctors extremely well, and they immersed themselves with picking this happen from an idea. and part of it was that the team
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of people that know programming, it was an 1103a computer that had to determine the orbital primers for the thing, and the sub -- that three of my friends worked at at the community center. >> guest: how cool. >> caller: and myself and three others worked on the submarine program to capture the data and actually find out so they can help to keep the russians pinned down. and then there was one final person that did the injection of the or bittal primers. so an entire team effort, so lean. that's a rather lean number, eight people did the entire thing. >> guest: right. >> caller: and that ooh helped get the entire thing done, in operation in four years, and, of course, the hybrid people were incredibly bright. and the total cost to the public was $300 million. we are extremely proud of that. but there's another one that's come up that's not known, and because of in your -- you were right about the atmosphere there. everybody talks to everybody about everything going at lunch.
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everybody few what was happening. but that same atmosphere happened when we had the fuel shortage in the '70s. and i believe another invention isover -- is of an extreme use, a chemist was involved in -- the lab was involved in all aspects, what would you do for the country in the '70s. any renewable energy projects and also with the fuels. and by 1980, everybody knew the fuel of choice for alternative would be meth follow. and it turned out a chemist was in charge of our renewable energy effort. his name was dr. william avery. and he immediately saw what was coming out, and he was working on an energy thing that produces electricity in water in great numbers. and he said, oops, all i have to do is lek ri rise the water, and i got prodigious amounts of oxygen, hydrogen, and, oops, he made a test with a company, and they actually -- we didn't have the facility available, so on
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land he got where he had electricity and water, he ran a small test lab, if you will, of using for the common source or 25 tons of carbon a day to produce about 33 tons of methanol. the point of that was he made a huge jump, they used the standard way of doing it is with the coal slurry, and he looked at it and said that's not a good idea, we can be more efficient at getting car bomb. pulverized the coal. and sure enough, it jumped 75%. the upshot of all this thing is invention is a pattern and, of course, available with the government. and you, sir, i think you would appreciate reading the book -- my surmise is his book, he has, unfortunately, died several years ago. but his book there describes, describes this thing. and the idea is we believe we can make methanol with this process that would be cheaper --
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>> host: okay, keane, we got the idea. >> gst: that was great. thank you for that story. so keane was referring to in the first part the story that i tell coming near the end of "where good ideas come from" which is about this amazing collaboration at the applied physics lab in maryland where these two guys were kind of inspired by the launch of sputnik, um, which had just gone up a couple days before, the first satellite sent up into orbit by the soviets. and they decided to kind of listen for it, basically, because they were like there's a thing that must be sending a signal, so they just, again, as kind of a hunch, as a hobby, it wasn't part of their official responsibilities. so they start to track this thing, and over time they figured out all these interesting things from the signals they were parse, and they eventually figured out they could locate it physically in
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space and figure out its orbit. and from that strange kind of unplanned investigation, the technology of gps, the navigation technology, developed. and it was originally used for military purposes. but, um, over time it's been opened up, and now here we are 50 years later, and all of us are walking around with gps devices in our, you know, pockets. and it shows you the power of that kind of innovation where because they were allowed to follow their hunch, even though they had no idea where it was going to take them, it ended up going from being a tool for fighting the cold war for being a tool for us navigating in our cars and trying to find a coffee shop somewhere nearby. and that's, you know, when you create platforms that allow people to kind of invent on top of existing inventions as we've done with gps in so many ways over the last 20 or 30 years, that's a big driver of innovation in society. >> host: glenn, freeland, michigan. please go ahead.
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hi. >> caller: hi. thank you all very much. couple of fast questions for dr. johnson. one, does he think privacy or hack of privacy on the internet and stuff like that might ever lead to an orwellian kind of big brother situation? and, two, what does he think about the idea of cloning, especially the idea of human cloning? thank you again. >> guest: well, first off, i really want to thank you for calling me dr. johnson, but one of the things that happened when i started writing these books is i never finished by ph.d., so i'm not a dr. johnson can which my 99-year-old grandmother who is watching this show, no doubt, is always teasing me about, that i never actually finished that ph.d.. so -- but i've written all these books, surely, i should get some credit for that. [laughter] anyhow, i, um -- what was the -- [laughter] i got distracted by that. >> host: privacy, and you closed "future perfect" on the issue of privacy and technology. >> guest: yeah, yeah.
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so, it's a really, really important issue, and we -- what's happened now is that we live in this kind of interesting realm where, um, the zone between the public and the private has gotten much blurrier. it used to be, you know, even when i was a kid there were people who were celebrities, who were politicians and who were famous and who live inside public, and then there was the rest of us. the rest of us lived private lives. and now it's possible for you to put something online and, you know, 100 people see it or 200 people see it or a thousand people see it. um, and so we have to make choices, and this is the kind of facebook problem of, you know, what is appropriate to share? you know, what do we enter into that kind of public domain, and what do we not? and it's comply candidated, and it's not easy. people make mistakes. it's part of the process is to walk through this with your kids. and the problem is that technology is advancing so quickly that it's hard to keep up with all the new ways that we
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have to share. the other part of it, which is what you were alluding to, is that there's a, you know, we've had some backlashes against kind of privacy and sharing in the openness of the internet and piracy. and there was the very -- there's been a fascinating case study of the sew pa and pipa -- sopa and pipa legislation which was the stop online piracy act that had, was really the single most important attempt by the government and by private corporations to rein in the decentralized nature of the internet. and for a long time this thing looked like it was going to pass, and it was going to pass with tremendous bipartisan support. we talk about an age of gridlock, the one thing that the republicans and democrats could agree on, seemingly, was that the internet was out of control and needed to be regulated more extensively. and then in the early months of
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this year there was this tremendous online kind of bottom-up backlash that culminated in the blackout of a number of big sites, including wikipedia -- a peer-produced site -- and within a few days of this, the bills were kid in the water. and -- dead in the water. and what was so face mating about it was when the media tried to score this, here you had this big piece of legislation, looked like it was going to pass and died, the tend i was, well, was this a victory for the democrats or republicans? both parties had supported it. and it turned out it was all these people online who felt that the decentralized nature of the internet was one of the best things that had happened to us in a long time, and we should make sure people don't mess with that. i see that as almost a silent nerd majority out there, and i think we're going to look back and say that was the first great kind of outbreak of this peer-progressive philosophy, the first thing we did collectively
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that got something stopped. now the next task is to figure out what we can do in a positive way building on the success of the internet and the web. >> host: steven johnson is our "in depth" guest, author of eight books, most recently "future perfect," and the bestsellers "the ghost map" and "where good ideas come from." shirley in 'em mets burg, iowa, good afternoon. >> caller: oh, hi, folks. what i would like to ask mr. johnson is since we have heard very little about women being innovative in the any particular area -- in any particular area, and i'm an elderly retired businesswoman who was put out of business by foreign-owned, great big businesses who i didn't even know were my competitors because they buy up small businesses in the area and keep them on as, as those small businesses and nobody knows who owns them. but why is it just money? my finding was that when i was
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trying to be innovative in my business, i was in a business that had been owned by a man and had partners, men, and nobody ever gave me credit for being the owner of the business. >> host: what kind of business was it, shirley? >> caller: what kind of business? >> host: yes, ma'am. >> caller: drainage material. drainage products. and then we also had a construction firm, and i was very, i was the one that supplied the money to start with. and then i used some of the modern ways of making my business better. and to matter what i did -- no matter what i did, i had problems dealing with men bankers that didn't want to talk to me. >> host: i apologize, i think we got the point. let's go back to her original point, that's only the second woman who had called, and
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usually it's nearly 50/50. >> guest: interesting. >> host: but only the second woman that's called. >> guest: well, i think there's kind of an archive of big innovations through history at the end of where good ideas come from, and can it is heavily dominated by men. but i think that this is changing, and i think, you know, there's this interesting book out now by hannah rosen called "the end of men" which is talking about the kind of aseven dense of women in a lot of facets of society. and one of the points in that book is the needs of society now, um, are increasing, and the better-paying jobs, more important jobs are increasingly favoring skill sets that that women, for whatever reason, have on average more than men. and i don't want to get into a whole question of culture, nature and nurture here. but one of those is the ability to network and to, you know, have conversations with people who are kind of different from you and to have that kind of emotional intelligence.
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in general, on average, women tend to have better skills at it than men do. for a long time that wasn't valued in society, and so there wasn't as much of kind of positive feedback to encourage that. but now we live in a society where those kinds of network skills are increasingly important in all these different fields. and so i think we will see more is and more -- see more and more cases where there are women who are excelling in innovation-heavy kind of businesses, you know, it's been great to see, for instance, marisa meyer take over at yahoo! coming from google, and, you know, we see more -- even in the tech sector which is heavily dominated by men and engineering which is heavily dominated by men, we're seeing some progress in getting women into important positions in those industries. and i think that that, the new talents that these businesses are going to require, i think, will intensify that trend. >> host: herb in los angeles, thanks for holding. you are on with author steven
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johnson. >> guest: thank you very much. >> caller: thank you very much. great show. steven, you know, the music business on one level has been made more democratic because of the internet. and on another level it's been financially decimated by the internet. is there room for morality on the web? when the people who steal music and feel entitled to do so, and i would consider that one of the default prejudices you mentioned earlier. >> guest: yeah. so really interesting question. there are a couple of things about this. first off, i think that, um, you can fairly within the framework that i'm talking about, you can fairly say that just because you believe in the open flow of information and you believe that pat tents, for instance -- patents, for instance, may be excessive, that it's still okay to say that stealing music is stealing music, and that, you
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know, we can debate on how we kind of punish people who steal music. but there is a place for authors to be and musicians to be compensated for their work. but there is some question about how devastated the music business has been. what we have seen is the music industry and the record companies have certainly, you know, seen sales decline. but there is other evidence which we don't have time to get into that musicians themselves on average are doing better. and that's because they make more money from concerts because the promotional abilities and word of mouth abilities of the internet, of people sharing legally or illegally their music allows them to build up bigger careers for themselves particularly in the kind of mid list of artists. not the superstars and the folks who play in their garages, but the folks who kind of have mid level success. that part of the music sector is actually doing quite well, and there's a lot of studies that have supported that. and so, you know, if you're a record executive, the news is not good.
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um, if you're a, you know, a professional musician who makes a career by performing music, i think on the whole the internet has been a net positive. >> host: this e-mail comes from gerald c. jackman, ph.d., that's how he signs it. i turned off your program just now when you went through his influences. one cannot talk about progress without a grounding in the bible, plato, shakespeare,er is van teas and nietzsche. i read two mckind novels, and there is no profundity there. my question: how can a person whose influences have such a present-mindedness be considered important? i am one of the silent, non-twitter majority. as you might surmise, i am suspicious of people who peddle progress. i would likely be dead today except for the progress of medical science, but to repeat, progress is a moral issue, and the people mr. johnson admires don't have a grounding in
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philosophy or theology to address the issue of progress. in fact, i would argue that social media and its con come plant tech world are ushering in an age of ed vim. gerald c. jackman, ph.d.. >> guest: so i hear the criticism. i mean, in my particular case one of the best things that ever happened to me was that when i was in grad school in my 20s, i was studying 19th century novels. and really, basically, post-enlightenment philosophy. and so -- [laughter] i read more knee shi than i would like to admit, in fact. but i was really immersed, i mean, middle march was on that list of big influences. but i lived in this world
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conceptually when i was 23 or 24 which is that the internet was starting to break, really interesting things were happening with technology, and i would go back and forth between reading dickens and reading colbert and investigating the new networking technologies that were happening on my computer. and it was actually really generati, and this is the power of diverse perspectives. what was really important to me, and it echoes through all the books, is that i was going back and forth between those two domains. and part of it was the novels were 80 0-page books, and the philosophical tradition that i was reading at that time had comparable richness in the ideas and then i was looking at this new world where things were simpler, but changing so fast that it was really dynamic and interesting. and it was the play between those two worlds. so to the extent that the viewer
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is saying that if you get too stuck in the present, um, you won't be able to interpret the world proper hi because the president's perspective is very limited on what's happening now, they're absolutely right, that is absolutely right. um, that's not what i've tried to do, and, in fact, there was a very deliberate choice that i made after everything that is good for you came out, i'd been writing about video games, been very much in the present, and it was so liberating to go back and write ghost map. to go back and write a book about 19th century cholera, i didn't want to just be caught in the moment and the current conversation, i wanted to have that kind of broader historical perspective, and that's what i've tried to do. >> host: and i think maybe some of your subtitles lend itself to what you were just saying. emergence. the connected lives of abilities. and then, of course, we've got the invention of air: a story of
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science, faith, revolution and the birth of america. >> guest: yeah. >> host: next call comes from atlanta. charles, please, go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: thank you very much for taking the call. my question is relative to people of an older generation such as myself where we went to school at university, and if you didn't do well with your grammar in your history paper, you still failed the history paper. they took the full education very seriously. and as part of taking english and history, you came early to realize that the two were totally dependent upon each other and that the literature doesn't survive if you're saying too many bad things about the power. and in later on, as it turned out, i hadn't realized til later that my math scores were
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actually higher on the s.a.t. than english and history, and i always found it easy in the modern world to do spread sheets, other paperwork as long as i had formulas for dummies, i was fine to go. and it's a lot of the people that i worked with if they had their computers in the field and for whatever reason, they couldn't have access to their computers, they had an extremely hard time doing what i would think of as really very basic math. so my question is, what is the relation between people like myself who can visualize and people who are too dependent on their computers? and if they don't have them, don't really know still how to think for themselves. >> guest: well, i think, you know, there's a question about to what extent, you know,
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technology is augmenting our intellectual skills in a negative way in the sense of we are now dependent on the technology to solve these mental problems for us. we didn't have the technology, we would be able to do it on our own. you know, that famously is the argument that people would make about reading, once you had books, people would not need to actually remember anything, and storytelling was going to have the same effect. so i think we tend to overestimate the errors there. part of what i wanted to say at the beginning of what you're saying about the connections between english and history there, um, that's a very important point to make, and i try and make it every time i go back to a school when i'm talking at a college or a university somewhere which is to say that when you're in school, you have this great opportunity which is too precious to waste which is this is the one point of your life where you actually are free to make those
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connections between different fields. everything after you graduate even if you go on to do more school, people will try and specialize you and try to make you into an expert in one field or another. and when you're having kind of an undergraduate education, oneover the great opportunities is not just to go take your english class and your physics class, but to try and figure out the ways in which the english class is related to the history class, is related to the physics class and to figure out kind of intent wherive connections -- interpretive connections between all these things which is partially what my books try to do. it's such a rare opportunity to get to think that way. so i think the schools should be emphasizing that more because there are kind of sacred spaces? society for that reason. >> one of the books we haven't touched on, "mind wide open: your brain and the neuroscience of everyday life," came out in 2005, and you write on page 184 that the argument of this book has been that modern neuroscience presents i with a new grammar for understanding
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our minds, and with it one can be more informed and self-aware inhabitant of one's own head. >> guest: that's the only book i've written with i'm kind of the protagonist of it. because i go around and do all these experiments on my own brain in that book and try in, in a sense, instead of going to a, you know, a psychiatrist to learn about yourself, um, i went to a bunch of neuroscientists and brain scientists and had them do all these tests on my brain to see what i would learn, culminating in this giant elaborate experiment i did in an fmri machine. it was a fun adventure. that way of interpreting the world has actually gotten more comments. there have been a lot of books written about the kind of neuroscience of everyday life, but at the the time -- >> host: how did you pick that? kind of jacob weisberg-y --
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jacob, i'm losing my train of thought here. >> guest: oh. >> host: but how did you come up -- >> guest: how did i -- well, you know, the books tend to have this property role, right? there'll be a subtheme of one book, and as i'm writing it, i'll think that theme is really interesting, i'd like to do a whole book on that. so emergence had stuff about brain science in it because the self-organizing systems in emergence self-organized to form higher-level behavior with, intense, consciousness, so on. so i was talking to brain scientists and reading is some of the literature, and i started to think, gosh, this is really fascinating. i wonder what my own brain would look like if i scanned it? so i went off on that adventure. >> host: david brighton in colorado, we have about 15 minutes left. [inaudible] >> host: david? [inaudible] >> host: david, i apologize, we're going to put you on hold
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for a second. i'm not sure your connection or mobile phone is in a good place. we could not hear you. katherine in cokier, alabama, you're on booktv. hi, katherine. >> caller: um, i was curious who was your mentor as a child since you're so inquisitive? and what role did your 99-year-old grandmother play if your life? [laughter] >> guest: all right. well, so i had a, i had a bunch of mentors growing up. um, but i did, i did feel, actually, it's funny, the thing i was as a kid, and i've tried to encourage this in my own kids, is, you know, i was obsessive. so i would get really into things when i was 8 or 9, and the things themselves were irrelevant. i got really into imagine, and i got into dice baseball games and golf course architecture, all these crazy things. and it wasn't so much that i learned something directly from those obsessions as a kid, but i
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learned what it felt like to be really locked in and, you know, curious about a topic. and so i just kind of developed that faculty. in truth, it came from my hobbies. it didn't come as much from school. and once i, you know, got older, i got interested in slightly more substantial topics. that same kind of feeling in your brain, that feeling of i have to know everything about that was, was kind of available to me. um, and it's kind of shaped everything that i've done since then. my grandmother, wonderfully, took me off to gallon when i was in -- london when i was in seventh grade. we took a trip to london, it was my first trip over there, and i was in a just crazy beatles phase. and i had just started listening to the beatles, and she thought she was taking me to go and look at, you know, buckingham palace and all these places, and i was
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like, we're going to abbey road right now. so all these pictures of us standing outside of paul mccartney's house. [laughter] but it started this lifelong love of london and the u.k. and you see, i mean, i've written disproportionately about british people, basically, in all my books. it's this very funny thing. ghost map was entirely set there, most of invex of air is in the -- invention of air is in the u.k. there are a lot of brits in good ideas. so she started me on that path of being a little bit of an anglo file. >> host: do you remember our friend david from eugene, oregon, who suggested the update to "in depth" in our new open source format and we forgot his first point? someone else has tweeted in his first point. the worst question was along the lines, what steps can an individual take to help advance progress. >> guest: oh, great. i'm glad we're back to that. so part of it is, um, kind of
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widening your network of influence which is to say you've got your job, and you've got your family. you have a kind of professional life, and you've got a personal life. but a lot of, you know, cultural progress, social progress comes from these additional kind of institutions or third spaces, whatever you want to call them, where people are whether they're calling in to 311 or joining some volunteer organization, and they're solving problems in their community, um, or whether they're just hobbyists getting together to work on interesting hobbies and organizing with great service like that lets people of shared interests get together face to face. and building those connections in society. because we have societies where there's those kinds of connections and people aren't just going into the office and going home and staying home, but where the society is much more
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kind of intermesh inside that way. that's a great sign of social health. and it's fun too. >> host: skylar johnson e-mails in to you, what are some ways that the younger audience can quickly start adopting the ideas of a pure progressive in the way they structure their lives both personally and socially? i know you say it will take a long time in the process, but i think the younger crowd in their 20s like me will really respond positively to these ideas. >> guest: great, well, i'm glad to hear it. look, there are a lot of interesting organizations. the place where the peer progressives work is happening in the, with the most early success is in communities and neighborhoods around the country. and so in the book if you get a chance to look at it, i mention a bunch of these services that have names like neighborhood land and neighborly and see quick fix. and there are places where communities are getting together
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and saying, okay, here's, you know, here we are in our neighborhood here, here's a -- there's an abandoned lot here. and it's overrun with weeds, and we're not using it properly, and it's a waste of space. what should we do? let's fix it. let's come up with a solution for this particular problem in our community. let's use these tools to both identify the problem and then to come up with an inventive use for this space and then maybe fund that space, you know, invite contributions so we can pay the money to get this thing made. and you see projects like that kind of funneling all over the country right now, and i think the power ofthose things is that when you're talking about the local community level, the true experts are the people who live in those neighborhoods. it's not the people in city hall, it's not the, you know, reporters at the big city newspaper. it's the people who live in the community who understand the needs of that community. and, you know, a big part of for argument of "future perfect" is that if we can take all that
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on-the-ground expertise and local knowledge and amplify it and give people new tools so they can take that knowledge and put it to work, we have the opportunity to have a great renaissance in the day-to-day, lived experience of people if their communities. so it's a great time to be involved in that stuff. whether it involves technology or whether it's just people getting together face to face in their neighborhoods. >> host: now, ron in miami, you are on with author steven johnson. >> caller: good afternoon, gentlemen. i pose this question both to you as well as mr. peter, a friend of c-span. it has to do with the technical aspects of putting the book together. i'm trying to write a book on architecture, and i'm wondering where i can get images -- you know, purchase them for a reasonable price, of course -- where i can get images on a web site or someplace, and the other question i have has to do with the idea completion which means if i have an idea about a novel,
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how -- who should i go to to complete the idea in the sense of the drama and bring it, like make into a novel? i have the core idea, but i want to add color and writer's aspects to the book. >> host: all right. let's get an answer. >> guest: well, there are online photo galleries or big things, i believe it's called corbus where you can go and license -- >> host: getty. >> guest: yeah, the getty archives. >> host: but he also said keeply. >> guest: cheaply, that may be hard. i'm not exactly sure what the story is to that. you know, writing a book is a funny thing because on one hand it's one of the most solitary jobs in the world where you're just kind of sitting there with your computer, your typewriter. on the other hand, all of my books have been wonderful collaborations with my editors, both my official editors and then my wife is an amazing editor, and, you know, "future perfect", there were about ten folks who read it, my editor at
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wired read it. and having that sounding board, when i was younger as a writer i was kind of a perfectionist, and i would be, okay, all of these words are perfect. anyone who dare suggest they're in the wrong order or the wrong words is completely wrong. and the older i get, the more convinced i am that the editorial stage is really crucial to these books. and i have very little -- i welcome all the kind of feedback and comments and suggestions. i'm not afraid of them anymore. and so finding that, what you need is a good editor. and, you know, finding that is, is complicated, but once you find them, they're truly valuable. >> host: is new york city still central to the publishing industry? >> guest: yeah, absolutely. i think it, i think it is. it's still really based there. you know, it's gotten, actually, for me -- for my purposes it's gotten even better because technology -- the publishing industry is still very much based there. but the technology scene has gotten so good in new york city.
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actually, this has been a big change over the last 10 or 15 years, there's all these wonderful start-ups coming out of new york. so for someone who's a writer and interested in technology in new york, new york is a good place to be. >> host: herb called a while ago about the music industry. just spoke to you, my full question got cut off, he says, and here are his three questions. we've addressed some. is there morality in regards to stealing music? how would you feel if i could get your new book right now for free? and then, do you support sopa? >> guest: right. i, um, probably you could get my book for free somewhere, and i, as i said, i think that it is fine to believe that there are, you know, that, um, that people should still pay for creative work. that's different from putting everything under, you know, kind of pass protection and things like that. and so i've always been supportive of kind of, you know,
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my old form -- i'm not one of the people who think that digital rights management is very doctrinaire and there should never be any kind of rights management or music or books. but as i said, i think that there is a real value in terms of getting ideas and in terms of getting an author or musician's work in circulation, and sometimes that comes with the cost of additional piracy, then i think that's a cost as a society that we can be willing to take on. >> host: tom in kingsland, texas, please go ahead. just a couple minutes left. >> caller: yes. i'm curious if you heard of charles murray's book, "human accomplishment" the reason i'm asking is he put a stress on a sense of vocation and also a sense of autonomy, and this ties in with the earlier question about the role of faith in accomplishment. >> guest: yeah, i did -- i saw that book. i didn't read it. um, although thanks for the
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suggestion. i should, actually, have read that book, i suspect. i think that, you know, there is -- in my work i tend to write about the environment of accomplishment or of innovation and to say -- to try and get us outside of the kind of lone genius theory of great ideas, that someone's just incredibly smart and they lock themselves in the room and the bulb changes. we know from history that is almost never the case in terms of where good ideas come from and that almost always there is a specific kind of network of collaboration that helps, you know, the genius or the inventer to have his or her breakthrough. and, um, if you only emphasize the kind of solo artist and forget about that kind of collaborative network, you just -- you're misinterpreting
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history. and you're not going to build environments in the future that encourage the kind of thinking that we need, because you're going to be looking for those solo artists, and you're not going to build the networks that we need to really advance society. >> host: in "future perfect" i just want to conclude with that, if it's -- and if i'm mischaracterizing your thoughts, let me know. but i think i read that you say that those who believe in technology are optimistic about the future, and so i want your comment on that, but also go back to the privacy issue. not just legislation in congress -- >> guest: right. >> host: -- but all the information about ourselves that we're giving to private companies around the world. is there a concern there? >> guest: yes. so two things. as you said, i try in this book to make it clear that i'm, i'm optimistic, but i'm not a cyber utopian in the sense that i don't believe that technology is always the answer to everything. the language i use is to say
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that the internet and its success is a role model for us, but it's not necessarily the cure to all our problems. we can look at it and is say, wow, we built that together. what else could we do that would be like that? but it does create these issues, and, you know, on the one hand we can look at privacy and say, sure, these corporations know a lot more about us, but it means the ads we're seeing are actually more relevant to us, and we're actually not just being spammed by people, we're seeing targeted things based on our taste. on the other hand, we have to be more aware as a society, and we have to build systems that let us know where our information is being shared. so it's not that all this stuff is head anything a positive direction -- heading in a positive direction, but if we're smart about it and we're optimistic and we apply ourselves and use some of these principles, there's a lot of reason to be hopeful about what we can do. >> host: and finally, michael e-mails in, do you think that peer progressive networks will be amplified by the rapid adoption of the mobile internet in developing nations?
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>> guest: yes. um, because they're the places where one of the big things you have is maas i have cities being developed where you have huge needs like the kind of infrastructure feeds we talk about, and the idea that cities are going to be walking around with these mobile computers that are far more powerful than anybody's computer was 20 years ago, it's going to be a tremendous opportunity for these cities solve problems. just like john snowe and henry white had walking around london in 1854, they were looking for patterns in the day. but they didn't have real technology that let them notice those patterns or report them. now in these new emerging, you know, mega cities, we're going to have tremendous resources available. >> host: and we'll finish with a quote from the both map. with the exception of the earth atmosphere, the city is life's largest footprint and microbes are its smallest. it is a great testimony to the connectedness of life on earth that the fates of the largest
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and the tiniest life should be so closely dependent on each other. and for the past three hours we have been talking with steven onson, to have of -- johnson, author of eight books. interface culture was his first, 1999, emergence came out in '02. mind wide open in '05. the bestselling everything bad is good for you came out in 2005. the ghost map in 2006, the invention of air in 2008. where good ideas come from came out in 2010, and his most recent just on the market is "future perfect." mr. johnson, thank you for being on "in

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CSPAN October 8, 2012 12:00am-3:00am EDT

Steven Johnson Education. (2012) Steven Johnson.

TOPIC FREQUENCY Us 30, Steven Johnson 26, Mr. Johnson 13, New York 10, London 9, The City 6, Google 6, California 6, Jefferson 5, Keane 4, England 3, Johnson 3, Manhattan 3, Brooklyn 3, United States 3, Airbus 2, Mtv 2, Facebook 2, Adams 2, Gerald C. Jackman 2
Network CSPAN
Duration 03:00:00
Scanned in San Francisco, CA, USA
Source Comcast Cable
Tuner Channel 91 (627 MHz)
Video Codec mpeg2video
Audio Cocec ac3
Pixel width 704
Pixel height 480
Sponsor Internet Archive
Audio/Visual sound, color

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on 10/8/2012